Dodges make the difference at downforce tracks

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

It's a little early to make this call, but when I look at the Las Vegas test and the Rockingham race results, the Dodges seem awfully strong. Even though a Ford won at The Rock, six of the top eight qualifiers and five of the top seven finishers drove Dodges. Why is that? For the most part, all of the cars are fairly equal. They basically all have the same greenhouses, but there may be something about their nose and Dodge's new tail section that complements this reduction of rear spoiler. Maybe the car has more balance. Or maybe it's just coincidental. I do know was awfully fast at the Las Vegas test, and has always run well there, finishing second in 2002. I look for to run well there after gaining confidence with his race team at Rockingham. It looks like something is favoring the Dodges right now at the downforce race tracks.

Tires won't be a problem

Robert from Fort Scott, Kansas: So with the new tire, I can see a little better racing but at what price to the drivers and the cars? Actually tire durability should be better. Less rubber generates less heat so Goodyear anticipates that this tire should be more durable and should not lead to more tire failures.
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If anything, there were several reasons behind the change. At Daytona, one of the Goodyear engineers explained it to me. The softer tire encourages teams to change tires more often and not stay out there for the final 100 miles of a race. In the past, you didn't want to give up track position, and you didn't have to because the tires were the same on lap 90 as they were on lap 10 at a lot of race tracks. I don't think less stable cars is a concern because that's what the drivers said they wanted. With all of the downforce that these cars have accumulated over the years, the driver almost felt like he wasn't in control of his car. It was all about how much downforce your car had vs. your competitors had. The drivers said, "Give us some of the car back to drive and not let this whole thing be like an Indy car and come down to how many hundreds of pounds of downforce you can make." Over the winter, Nextel Cup Series director John Darby told me this change could be phase one. There could be a phase two and phase three. In other words, we may see more reduction of rear spoiler, and there could be another phase as early as this year.

FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.

"Larry McReynolds: The Big Picture" is on bookstore shelves now, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.

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